Mending Boats and Hopes for Yemeni Fishermen

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, July 6, 2021
USAID helped fishermen in Yemen generate a better, more stable income and offer employment through trainings in fiberglass boat repair.
Photo: ERLP

“I’ve hired a young man to assist me. I taught him all the aspects of boat maintenance. In the future I hope to hire four or five more youths from my area. In these tough times, it’s hard to find employment opportunities.”    — Mr. Fikri Bahriemah, Yemeni fisherman and boat repairman  

For 27 years, fisherman Fikri Bahriemah set sail each day hoping for a good catch. It was a precarious livelihood, and like his fellow fisherman living along the shores of Shabwah Governorate in southeastern Yemen, Bahriemah struggled to support his family. 

“As fishermen, we could only hope and trust God to have a lucrative fishing day,” he explains. “We could barely make ends meet. This led me to seek new sources of income. As a husband and father of five, this becomes your main concern.” 

With support from USAID’s Economic Recovery and Livelihood Program (ERLP), Bahriemah took a fiberglass boat maintenance training and with his new skills now generates a better, more stable income and offers employment to others in his community. He is also fulfilling a long-held dream of owning a small business.  

Despite its potential for contributing to the national economy and improving food security, the Yemeni fisheries sector has been held back by years of conflict and lack of strategic investments and financing. Yemeni fishermen also have had to contend with natural disasters, such as Cyclone Chapala, which destroyed Bahriemah’s traditional wooden boat in 2015. Following that disaster, many local fishermen obtained new fiberglass boats with help from a local NGO. However, they were not trained on maintaining their new boats. 

In July 2020, Bahriemah took part in a six-day fiberglass boat maintenance course conducted by USAID’s ERLP. The training also taught net-making, boatbuilding, and engine repair and maintenance. The trainees were educated on fiberglass construction and the types of damage or malfunctions that might occur. The instruction was hands-on, teaching participants how to properly use and store equipment and materials as well as how to safely dispose of chemicals. 

Beyond the technical components, the trainings also introduced the fishermen to basic business skills. The region has few qualified fiberglass maintenance shops, opening a significant opportunity for the participants to fill the gap and launch their own enterprises. 

Bahriemah’s new business is bringing in a steady source of income. In the first six months, it generated 190,000 Yemeni Riyal (about $760), a tidy complement to his fishing income. This has allowed him to hire and train one assistant, with plans to offer more jobs as his business expands. 

In addition to the income and employment benefits, the USAID-supported trainings have helped local fishermen rebuild a sense of community and self-efficacy, bringing them new hope and direction. With his fellow trainees, Bahreimah formed a technical consultancy group to provide peer-to-peer support and to help each other keep up with the latest techniques and tools.

“In this training, I formed friendships with my fellow trainees. I contact them or the trainer regularly, when I need technical assistance or consultation. As a handyman you seek perfection in your work, and you must master it to the fullest. Therefore, I’m constantly looking for ways to improve, just like this training,” says Bahriemah.

USAID’s Economic Recovery and Livelihoods program (ERLP) addresses critical economic stabilization and livelihood challenges in Yemen. ERLP expects to reach at least 500 coastal men and women, like Bahriemah, with business best practices, skill development, and technologies. By rebuilding the country’s vital fishing sector and rekindling community connections, USAID is enhancing the lives of everyday Yemenis and helping them secure a more sustainable future for their country. 

 

Last updated: November 19, 2021

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